Learning from Baby Steps
Research commissioned by the Department of Health in 2009 showed that traditional antenatal education tended not to reach the most vulnerable families and took a medicalised approach with little focus on relationships. At the NSPCC, we want to support parents before difficulties start so that we can prevent child abuse and neglect. So in 2011 we developed Baby Steps, a highly supportive perinatal group which could also address the needs of families who require that bit of extra support.
Baby Steps facilitators go out of their way to engage mums and their partners in a supportive group which focusses on the parent-infant relationship, the couple relationship and parental mental and physical wellbeing. Baby Steps also includes all the typical preparation for labour, birth and beyond. The course has 6 antenatal group sessions and 3 postnatal group sessions, with a couple of home visits at key points.
We successfully piloted and evaluated Baby Steps in 9 areas across the country and listened to feedback from mums and dads. We’re now working with partners in the public and voluntary sectors, supporting them to implement the service in their local areas. Each group is run by qualified health professionals, usually a midwife or health visitor; and a social care colleague, often a family worker from a local service such as a Children’s Centre. They tell us that they love working in this multi-disciplinary fashion and that it’s helpful to share skills, perspectives and better understand one another’s role and organisation. I love the fact that the facilitators demonstrate how 2 different people can work well together – it’s not dissimilar to how parents have to work together to raise their baby.
We’ve learned a lot from delivering, developing and evaluating the programme. But if I had to choose 5 key points, these would be:
- infant mental health starts before birth
- pregnancy is a great window of opportunity to promote the importance of relationships
- parents need integrated support before and after the birth of their child
- parents facing additional challenges benefit most from this integrated and supportive intervention
- Baby Steps is a unique and innovative programme which has proven outcomes.
To find out more about our findings from the service, have a look at our evaluation.